A good Socialist government is not supposed to be a colonial power, too. That is why Ceuta and Melilla - two enclaves in North Africa - are an embarrassment for Spain's prime minister, Felipe Gonz'alez. The two territories are surrounded by Morocco and King Hassan II has claimed them doggedly over the decades. Unrest has erupted recently among Melilla's Muslims, who want full Spanish nationality and a declaration of Melilla's ``Arab and Islamic character.'' The right-wing politicians in Melilla and back in Madrid have accused Morocco of stirring up the discontent to make the colony so unmanageable that Spain will abandon it.
So far, no direct proof exists of Moroccan machinations in Melilla. But six weeks ago, Muslim leader Aomar Dudu paid a private visit to see a ``sick relative'' in Morocco. In fact, he met secretly with several of the King's ministers.
Mr. Dudu's visit outraged the Spanish government, because two weeks before Interior Minister Jos'e Barrionuevo had appointed him special adviser on Muslim affairs. Dudu, however, neglected to advise his new boss of the Moroccan trip.
The dispute over whether Morocco is trying to pry away Spain's possession has overshadowed the Muslims' many grievances. Some 3,000 of Melilla's 17,000 Muslims live in a dismal slum called the Cascade of Death. Though the government allotted money to clean up the slum, a resident says, the funds went instead to a swimming pool for local Spaniards.
Last month, Muslim merchants held a strike protesting new alien laws that, they say, would deny them Spanish nationality. The protests led them into trouble with the Spanish population, which numbers about 50,000. Last week, Dudu's brother was knifed and his wife and daughter were injured by stones hurled through the window of their home during a demonstration by rightist Spaniards.
After the strike, the Spanish government offered Muslims temporary nationality cards until a permanent solution could be worked out. Spaniards complained, however, that not only Muslim residents but also Moroccans working in Melilla would be legitimized.
Prime Minister Gonz'alez also has worries from the Army. Melilla and Ceuta are all that remain of Spain's North African colonies, and the generals want to keep them for reasons more sentimental than strategic. In conservative military circles, it is felt that if the Socialists give too many rights to the Muslims, Morocco's territorial claim will be strengthened.